Why You’re Staying Where You Are (& How to Move On)

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Have you ever been in a situation in life where you weren’t happy with where you were at – but you somehow couldn’t get up the motivation to change? I don’t mean cases where there are good reasons (such as financial ones) to hold back from change, but when there’s not really anything stopping you except yourself.

Here are a few, very very common, examples of where you might be stuck.

  • You smoke. You want to quit for the sake of your health and your wallet, but every morning, you light up before breakfast.
  • You’re currently in college, and you know you’d perform better if only you could get up earlier … but despite repeated resolutions, you rarely make it out of bed before noon.
  • You’re a hundred pounds overweight. You’d love to be thinner – with more energy and more choices of where to buy clothes – but your diets never last past Monday.
  • You’ve had the same, dull, “temporary” job since you got out of college. You know you’ll never enjoy it or get any further with it, but every time you think about moving on, you feel paralysed
  • You know you drink too much – but you can’t face the thought of a weekend without alcohol.

The difficulty is that, in almost any situation, there’s some good stuff (even when it comes at a cost). However fed up you are about your smoking, your weight or your job, there are reasons why you’ve not yet done anything about it – and if you’re ever going to change, you need to consider and confront these reasons.

As you read on, I’d like you to have in mind a situation in your own life where you want to change but can’t seem to ever get around to it. Maybe you want to start your own business, improve your health, leave an unfulfilling relationship, or learn something new. Think about this as you read the next few paragraphs, and consider how they might apply to your specific circumstances.

Ask Yourself … What’s Good About My Current Situation?

A crucial question to ask – and to answer honestly – is “what’s good about my current situation”? Don’t dismiss this by saying “nothing”, because there always will be something, even if it’s simply the comfort and familiarity of routine. In many cases, the pull will be much stronger.

Don’t dismiss “stupid” reasons, too. These are often the unacknowledged ones which we need to recognize in order to move beyond them.

To make this a bit clearer, I’ll take the example of someone who’s currently overweight. The “good stuff” about the current situation could include:

  • Being able to eat favourite foods like candy and chips
  • Having a wardrobe of clothes that fits (losing weight would mean buying clothes in a different size)
  • Fitting in with friends and family who are also overweight
  • Sticking to a comfortable routine with grocery shopping and meals
  • Having an identity based on being “big” (perhaps more common for men)
  • Not having to worry about being an object of sexual desire (probably more common for women)
  • Not needing to find time and energy to exercise

Some of these reasons might seem a bit silly or odd – but they’re all reasons why people can find themselves struggling to even get started on a diet.

If you want to dig into the reasons behind your own reluctance to change, you might find that some of these help:

Talk to a Friend or Coach

Talking your situation through with a trusted friend can help, as simply putting things into words can get you thinking about them. A coach (or even a therapist) will have the training and skills to help you uncover motivations and blocks that could go back a long way.

Ask Yourself Questions

If you don’t have anyone who you can confide in, try talking to yourself! Some powerful questions to explore why you haven’t changed yet include:

  • What do I enjoy about (smoking/my weight/my job)? Note: this may be where reasons that you label as “silly” or insignificant come in, like “I enjoy having an excuse to take a break from work for a cigarette”. Don’t ignore these!
  • How would my day or week be different if I did successfully implement this change? Be as specific as possible here.
  • What would I have to give up from my current life?

Journal About It

As a writer, I find that working through my thoughts with pen and paper (or keyboard and screen) is a great way to clarify how I’m feeling. It’s also a good way to focus, if you often find your thoughts wandering when you try to simply think through a situation.

Give yourself at least fifteen minutes to sit down, with no distractions, and write some answers to the questions above – or simply brainstorm around the topic of “quitting smoking” or “leaving my job” etc.

My feeling is that we often underestimate or ignore the mental barriers that we have towards change. It’s easy to find external circumstances (like finances, family, lack of necessary qualifications) that are holding us back, but hard to pin-point these internal ones. If you’ve experienced times where the “good stuff” in an otherwise bad situation was holding you back from change, or if you’re going through something like that at the moment, it would be fantastic to hear your own experiences in the comments.

Photo by helgasms!